Oleksandr Lukashov, a foreman at the Mariupol Metallurgical Plant, lost his eye as a result of the shelling, which left a huge scar on his face.
He pulled his dead wife out of the rubble.
The wounded Oleksandr left Mariupol on a road lined with corpses. The man traveled through Russia to get to his daughter in Greece. He did not want to stay in a country “ruled by the Gestapo.”
Oleksandr told his story to “Ukrainska Pravda. Life”.
For a long time, I could not forget the eyes of my dead wife
On February 24, Oleksandr even went to work.
According to him, Mariupol residents had no idea what Putin’s attack would bring them.
However, on February 27-28, the Russians began shelling the city. In particular, the area with the private sector, where Oleksandr lived with his wife Olga.
When the shelling became more frequent, the couple, taking only documents, decided to temporarily move into the apartment of Oleksandr’s mother.
“On March 2, we went shopping. Everything was still working. The city was quiet. However, neither the police nor the Ukrainian military could be seen anywhere,” Oleksandr recalls.
The next day, March 3, the man will remember for a lifetime.
In the morning his wife looked out of the window and said:
“Look, the tanks are coming! And look what is painted on them!”
The man approached the window and saw several tanks and armored personnel carriers with white Z-painted letters.
Oleksandr advised wife to move away from the window. He sat in the room, and his wife went to the kitchen. At that moment someone knocked on the door, and his mother went to open it. The man heard her talking to someone in the hallway.
“Suddenly I heard the sound of a tank diesel engine. Then – how the tank tower turns, how the mechanics work. I realized that it stopped and turned to our house,” says Oleksandr.
He did not hear the shot, but felt the blow. Oleksandr’s face was wounded by shrapnel and glass. His eye was cut in half.
He realized that the shell had hit the kitchen: the wall between it and the room was gone, and the wall between the hallway and the apartment was gone.
“My first thought was: where is Olga? She was lying in the kitchen under the rubble. Only her head was sticking out,” says Oleksandr.
The man began to dismantle the blockages, trying to pull out his wife, although his face was covered in blood.
“I shouted, “Olya, help yourself with your hands and feet!” I finally pulled her out, put on the stove and turned over.”
“Her dead eyes stared at me. Then I stared at her for a long time. When I pulled her, she was already dead. I checked pulse. And I noticed how her nails started to turn blue,” – Oleksandr described one of the worst moments of his life.
He then pulled his wife’s body to the window. Two men in jackets with the inscription “Disaster Medicine” ran to his cry.
Oleksandr was taken out of the apartment before he lost consciousness.
He was leaving the city stepping over the corpses
The man regained consciousness at a local hospital. He only remembers the operating table and that his wounds were sutured by a pediatric surgeon. There were no other doctors left in the city.
He later mustered the strength and asked about his mother.
“Your mother is gone,” he was told.
The man did not see her die, but said she was a socially active person and many people in the area knew her. Therefore, if she had survived, they would probably have found out.
At that moment, Oleksandr realized that he no longer had a family.
Meanwhile, the situation in the city was deteriorating, shelling was becoming more frequent. Mariupol was constantly bombed.
More and more people were brought to the hospital.
“The Russians shot people who were just going to collect water.
27 people left, women and children. Fascist vehicles approached and shot them. 5-6 people – immediately to death. The wounded were brought to surgery by some man on a GAZelle,” says Oleksandr.
The man remembered a 19-year-old girl, Julia, who underwent surgery. He helped to transfer her to a hospital bed.
“The nurse gave injections to everyone who was brought in from the operation.
20 minutes have passed. I look at this Julia and understand that she is not moving at all. Usually the wounded are spinning, moaning, but she is not. They approach her, and she is dead.
She was given injections when she was already dead. There were a lot of people, they had no time to see who was dead and who was alive” – the man recalls.
Every day 5-6 people died of their wounds in the hospital. The bodies were put in bags, and when they were finished, they were taken by the arms and legs, placed on a blanket and carried to the basement or to the street. Almost the entire hospital yard was filled with bodies.
On March 4, frosts began in Mariupol. In the hospital, with broken windows, it was very cold, the shelling did not subside.
Oleksandr managed to leave the medical institution only on March 21. He and another family – parents and two injured children – decided to escape to the territory controlled by Ukraine.
There were rumors that from the western part of the city you can go to Berdyansk, and from there – to Zaporizhzhia.
People walked across the city for a week. There was constant shelling, and they hid in basements for several days.
They ate what the locals gave: some gave some bread, some half a bottle of water, and some a jar of tomatoes.
“The military from Azov say that about 20,000 to 25,000 people have died in Mariupol. I think there are more. We were stepping over the corpses. They were everywhere! “, – the Mariupol resident shares his memories.
At first, the dead were not buried in the yards, they were taken outside and left there.
One day people wanted to hide in the basement of one of the houses, but an old lady came out of the entrance and said:
“Don’t go there. 16 people were sitting there when the shell hit. So they all died, the bodies are still lying there.”
Finally, on March 27, Oleksandr and his family with children reached the local church, where about 200 people were hiding in a huge basement.
As Oleksandr put it, frightened Russians and Chechens were already running around the city.
The occupiers went to the church and said: none of you will go to Ukraine, there is only one option – where to say.
He ended up in Donetsk, passed the “filtration” and found a way to get out
First, people were taken to the village of Pokrovske, and from there to Donetsk. The man said he needed to go to Ukraine, but no one wanted to listen to him. They just asked: do you not love your homeland?
In Donetsk, Oleksandr was hospitalized in a local hospital. He was lying in the same ward with the wounded DNR members.
At first, the man tried to defend his position, telling who killed his family. But later he was told:
“Shut up, or you’ll be in the basement, and tomorrow they’ll take you to the forest, shoot you, and no one will look for you.”
However, the DNR turned out to be ordinary residents of Donetsk, who were caught in a shop or on a tram and mobilized. They said they did not want this war.
They also wanted to mobilize Oleksandr, despite the lack of an eye. As they said – “You will inflate tires, repair cars.” The only thing that saved him was that at that time he did not pass the so-called filtration.
Every day in the hospital the man was checked for “security clearance”.
“A representative of the regional department, the FSB, the investigative committee came. They forced me to undress, looked for tattoos, asked who I was, whether I was a soldier.”
And so for a whole month”, – the Mariupol resident tells.
In Donetsk, a man managed to get in touch with his daughter, who lives in Greece. He told her he could no longer stay in this “Gestapo”.
The daughter has found a driver who can take him from Donetsk via Russia to Latvia, and from there you can get to Athens.
However, in order to leave Donetsk, it was necessary to go through a humiliating “filtration” procedure, without which no driver would take him.
People from Mariupol and other occupied territories were taken to different cities, but the filtration took place in a single police station, which one on the other end of Donetsk.
Oleksandr came there and saw that the queue was already scheduled for 2 months in advance. Then he decided to negotiate with the local official of “Ministry of Emergency Situations”, which estimated its services at 3.5 thousand rubles.
And the next day the man was allowed to pass the filtration.
It happened like this: first they took fingerprints, checked the phones, and also took full-face photos, left and right.
They also asked whom he knew in the city, where he worked, and so on.
Then the men went to one room and the women to another.
There they were forced to undress. People were checked for tattoos.
“They believe that all Ukrainian military have tattoos, fascist signs. I’m lucky, I do not have a single tattoo. A 25-year-old guy was passing filtration with me. He had a tattoo: a hieroglyph and flowers. He sat there for a long time. I left, but he was left behind,” – Oleksandr recalls.
After the procedure, the man was finally issued a coupon, with which he boarded the bus.
He traveled through Russia to get to Greece
The inspections did not end there. Another interrogation awaited Oleksandr at the border between the so-called “DPR” and the Russian Federation.
DNRivets demanded from Oleksandr proof that he really worked at the metallurgical plant.
He was saved only by the fact that he had a pass to the factory.
There was another FSB check at the Russian border.
“Fingerprints again, naked again and checking of the phones.
But I was surprised that they had all the data for each person from my work. Someone leaked the database to them,” said the Mariupol resident.
They traveled through Russia for three days.
“If you saw Russia, it would be horrible. The state of the country is determined by the state of its settlements and roads. Everywhere there is a complete ruin, garbage on the roadsides.
The attitude I had towards Russia remained the same. They only know how to kill people and rob, but they can’t and didn’t know how to build anything,” – Oleksandr shares his impressions of the trip.
In Russia, he did not like anything at all: not coffee, not food, not people’s behavior.
“There was an unpleasant situation: I went to a paid toilet, and there sat lady in her 40s [and taking money for the entrance]. She told me:
“And where did you get, pretty?”
“From Ukraine, from Mariupol.”
Here she smiles and, as if not understanding, says:
“And how is Mariupol?”
I was so pissed off at that moment! “The man recalls.
The last FSB check was on the way out of Russia, on the border with Latvia.
When the man was given a permit to leave Russia, he felt alive for the first time since the beginning of the war.
“I was so happy like I got free from the dark basement,” he said.
Latvians hardly checked him, only asked for a passport, put a stamp and asked if he was carrying cigarettes.
It is not allowed to import more than 40 cigarettes to Latvia, the man said that he had 37 cigarettes.
The border guard took half a pack of cigarettes from her pocket and gave them to Oleksandr.
Mariupol resident finally unleashed emotions and addressed the Latvians:
“You don’t understand how well you live! How in time joined NATO. I escaped from the Gestapo, I’m ready to sleep on the bench, if only I don’t see those fascist faces!”
Then the man took a bus to Warsaw. He was very impressed by the way Poles treat Ukrainians:
“Everyone there smiled at me. I was walking in Warsaw, people approached me and asked where I was from. And then offered me delicious coffee with chocolate. The guy and the girl brought me burgers. The attitude towards us there is great.”
Oleksandr flew to Greece via Sicily, saw the sea and islands from a plane window.
Three hours later, his daughter met him in Athens.
Oleksandr needs to continue his treatment now, but he is already thinking about finding a job.